Using Slips, Sgraffito, and Inlay Techniques to Create a New Twist on Oribe


Oribe ware is a type of ceramics that originated in the 16th century and is known for its copper-green glaze and bold patterns. Ben Krupka is a fan of the experimental and playful feel of Oribe. In today’s post, an excerpt from Surface Decoration Techniques, Ben explains how he uses slips, wax resist, sgraffito and inlay techniques to create his own interpretation of this historical style.- Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

Slip Decoration

It’s important to have a vision for the finished piece in order grasp the steps and work backward. I find it helpful to sketch my ideas on paper prior to applying slip to the surface of the pot. Once the pot is on the dry side of leather hard, begin to apply colored slips by starting with the darkest color, in this case black. After allowing the black slip to dry, apply the next color of slip—I used Amaco Velvet Underglaze V-388 Radiant Red.

Once the slips are dry, cover the entire pot with wax resist and allow it to sit overnight so the wax hardens (figure 1). The longer you let the wax dry, the easier it will be to draw clean lines.

Figure 1 and 2

Incising and Inlaying

Use a tool with a point that gives the line quality you desire—anything from a ballpoint pen to a needle tool will work. Another contributing factor to line quality is the moisture content of the clay. The drier the pot, the sharper the line (figure 2).

Throughout the drawing process, pause occasionally to brush off the burrs of wax and clay that peel up as you draw so they don’t accidentally get pushed back into your lines. Be patient and wait as long as it takes for the burrs to dry. The drier the burrs are when you brush them away, the cleaner the line will be (figure 3).

Figure 3 and 4

Once the drawing is complete, use colored slips to fill in the lines (figure 4). After each color is applied, sponge away what doesn’t adhere before applying the next color (figure 5). The overlying color should wipe away easily due to the layer of protective wax resist still on the pot.

Figure 5

Figure 5



After bisquing the pot, use a damp sponge to clean the surface before applying glaze. This removes any dust that developed from the wax burning off in the kiln and allows for a consistent and clean coat of glaze. Apply areas of colored glaze (figure 6), allow them to dry, then apply a thin layer of clear glaze on top of the entire pot (figure 7). Wipe the bottom clean, allow the glaze to dry, then fire it to temperature.

Figure 6 and 7

Figure 6 and 7

Ben Krupka is a functional and sculptural ceramic artist and educator living and working in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. He has been teaching ceramics at Bard College at Simon’s Rock since 2005. Prior to this he completed a two-year residency at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana. To see more of his work, visit

**First published in 2014
  • Martha R.

    Awesome….I’ve always wondered how go fine detail on others works i’ve seen and now i know thanks for sharing. Nice piece by the way.
    thank you

  • John C.

    Thanks, I’ll be able to use this to inscribe for instance veins into my red acer leaf range of oven-to-table stoneware pots. Been wondering how to take the decoration to the next level! CAD, what a find as a site!!!
    John the Potter

  • Yvon K.

    Like the previous comment, I really appreciate the instructions. Can’t wait to give it a try. The one question I have and it clearly shows I’m still a beginner, so bear with me! Since you use an oribe glaze on the pot, does that imply it’s wood fired?
    Thanks in advance for your response.

  • Paula B.

    I appreciate the step by step simplicity of the instructions. These steps could be readily explained and demonstrated to my students. I noticed you handling the waxed surface. Is there a wax that works best for this without staying tacky? I am excited to try the inlay! Thank you!

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